Bill Maher and his Real Time panelists took on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s potential as a GOP presidential candidate following Christie’s relatively easy re-election win this week, with journalist and Game Change co-author John Heilemann comparing Christie at one point to former President Bill Clinton.
“For some reason, the heart wants what it wants. They like this guy,” Maher said of his fellow New Jerseyans. “He somehow has the magic formula in politics, which is getting the people on either side to think you’re with them.”
However, political analyst Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a Texas resident, argued that Christie’s “rude guy” rhetorical style would not work in southern states.
“Ted Cruz is from Texas,” Maher protested.
“At least he’s polite,” Soto said of the Texas Tea Party senator. “He’s crazy, but he’s polite. You bring that blustery attitude, and it’s not gonna play. It’s just not.”
David Avella, president of the conservative group GOPAC, sided with Maher, saying that Christie’s public shows of support toward President Barack Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy — particularly a hug the two shared — sent a message to the American public that more Republicans should heed.
“It’s ‘I can touch a Negro,'” Maher said, cutting in.
“The message he sent was, ‘I care about you,'” Avella said after chuckling. “That ‘If there’s someone who’s willing to come to this state and help us out, I’m gonna work with them.'”
But Soto countered that Christie “represents that Northeast corridor, he represents New Jersey, something that’s the polar opposite of what the base of the Republican party stands for.”
“So it’s a sin just to live there?” Maher asked Soto. “Is that what you’re saying? You’re tainted just by living in San Francisco, or New Jersey, it just makes you a bad person from the get-go?”
“It is too red right now,” Soto said of Texas.
For his part, Heilemann called Christie “compelling,” and pointed out the arguments against Clinton, George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama when their own candidacies were just starting.
“Bill Clinton — liberals thought he was too conservative, conservatives thought he was too liberal,” Heilemann explained, while Bush had “a lot of the same things said about him. Obama was the same way.”
But, Heilemann said, Christie was about to be subjected to much more scrutiny, something that made 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney shy away from picking him as his running mate.
“Once you step onto the national stage — and this is what Mitt Romney knew about Chris Christie — it’s a whole different ballgame,” Heilemann told Maher. “And he’s gonna have to face that in a really severe way.”
“Chris Christie does have skeletons in his closet — of cows,” Maher snarked in response.
Watch the discussion, as posted online on Friday, below.